At first, doctors thought it was pinched nerve. They later diagnosed multiple sclerosis. She was bedridden for eight months.
Salahi, now 44 and a rising reality star on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of D.C.," revealed this week how she has struggled with the disease.
She said the sometimes-debilitating symptoms struck her the night she and her husband Tareq caused such a fracas at that infamous White House state dinner.
"Being a patient makes you more aware," said Salahi. "They make fun of me on the show and say I am fake and full of it with my happy hugs, but I generally am happy," she said.
"But there was a time when I couldn't get out of a bed and walk," she said. "My family had to feed me soup because I couldn't even lift my arm. It scares you. But I live for today. I am all about being positive and they won't roll over me."
Salahi appeared earlier today on television's "Fox and Friends" with Diane Dimond, the investigative reporter whose book, "Cirque Du Salahi," hits bookstores Sept. 15.
"Diane is someone I trusted," said Salahi, who cried and turned to Dimond to refute allegations from her reality co-stars that she was anorexic.
"It's been stressful for her," said Dimond.
For 15 years, Salahi said she had volunteered for the Washington office of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
"They didn't even know I had it," she said. "They said, 'wow, your husband must have it or a friend.' I said, 'It's someone I care about very much. I have lived with it for 17 years."
About 400,000 American have multiple sclerosis, about twice as many women as men. It typically strikes between the ages of 20 and 50. It is often called the "You look so good" disease because its symptoms are often unnoticeable to others, according to NMSS spokesman Arney Rosenblat.
"Weight loss is not a typical symptom," said Rosenblat. "However, if you are on medication or you have depression or fatigue, you could have appetite issues. If you know someone with MS, you know its hallmark in unpredictability."
The same could be said of Salahi, who has been nicknamed "the butterfly" for the way in which she flits from one scene to the next in her personal and professional life.
But she said her journey with MS has been the biggest challenge so far.
MS is a chronic and sometimes disabling disease that is thought to be autoimmune in origin, attacking the myelin coating around nerve fibers in the central nervous system. It affects the brain, the eyes and the spinal cord as inflammation and scarring interfere with the transmission of signals along those nerve fibers.
"There are a wide variety of symptoms that can vary from one person to the next," said Kim Calder, a clinical psychologist and vice president of NMSS's professional resource center at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
"One person has vision problems or sensory changes and tingles or numbness in their arm or leg," she said. "And somebody else can go on to have cognitive impairment and walking difficulties. Most people have some of these symptoms, but not all of them."